The inhumanity of the Salem witch trials is the focal point of this dark, absorbing thriller about a small sect of modern-day witches residing in the quiet town of Hastings Corner, Mass. Laura Morgan and Abby Stewart, best friends from high school, share a genetic secret that they eventually pass on to their daughters, Greer and Jenna: all four are witches, members of a select and endangered subset of the human race who possess relatively harmless gifts of healing and mind control. For generations, a group of locals have taken it upon themselves to eradicate the sect. So when Jenna and Laura turn up dead, Abby knows their deaths weren't accidents, and she realizes that she and Greer may be next. Their battle against the cruel townsfolk rapidly spirals toward an anticlimactic finale at a psychiatric hospital, where a coven of witches is imprisoned. Along the way, Gorman (Daughter of Darkness; Vendetta), a prolific mystery writer, describes fog and other mystical elements with a poet's touch, while references to HBO sex comedies and Homer Simpson lend a contemporary vibe to what is essentially an updated account of a sordid slab of American history. (Feb. 5)
Forecast:A blurb from Dean Koontz will do more to boost sales than the book's cover illustration, which depicts a woman running through a cemetery with others carrying torches and chasing her. Still, this paranormal adventure may have troubles finding its niche, since Gorman's primary readership comes from his more traditional mysteries.